July 4, 1776 – The Declaration of Independence, Repentance, and Civic Duty

Nearly a quarter of a millennium ago, the United States of America came into being with the signing of the Declaration of Independence by the Second Continental Congress. Not impulsively decided, the reasons for the separation from Great Britain needed to be told to the world as those men saw it.

Thus the Founding Fathers did not just say they were an independent country like Michael Scott declaring bankruptcy. They put forward the long line of usurpations and abuses by the monarch they were now casting off and unmaking as ruler over them. They had thought long and hard about the nature of good government and what constituted sound principles before God and man, and they made known the fruit of their discourse carefully and clearly.

Not a few cynics today criticize that generation. They left condemnation of the slave trade out in the final document, after all. They were not radical egalitarians with regards to gender. Or they were not good enough Christians. Either way, now many feel they can no longer celebrate America because this has been a sinful country since the outset, however we define and identify sin.

And now here we are with so many of our status quo proponents even in the American Church today shushing celebrations of the overturning of Roe v. Wade because such may give offense to our associates. So we’re in no position to talk, as I see it.

But to celebrate the achievement of the War for Independence and its corresponding literature is not the same thing as saying the signatories were perfect. Nor should we worship them. But what of it? Neither are we perfect. Neither should we worship ourselves and one another. Yet we do have a country. That is something. And it is thanks in large part to the signers of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 that we have this country, because they passed it down to us.

Yet this country is falling apart now, and we would do well to look in the mirror to find the causes. We would do well to examine our own hearts and minds. That would be nearer the mark than obsessively quibbling about how much wiser and godlier we are now than our ancestors two-and-a-half centuries ago, however valid some criticism of them may be.

But now our historians tell us they think the Declaration of Independence was probably signed on August 2, 1776 instead of July 4. All the while, I want to hear more about July 4, 1779 and how Independence Day fell on a Sunday that year, so it wasn’t celebrated until the following Monday. And tell us more, historians, about how the U.S. Congress made this an unpaid holiday for employees of the federal government in 1870, and only changed it to a paid holiday in 1938. They had more frugality than we do, and that doesn’t get nearly enough attention.

However short-sighted or morally callow we think our predecessors were, we are so much more. But we do well to remember when we say or sing ‘God bless America’ that God promises to oppose the proud and give grace to the humble. And God always follows through with His promises.

If we should like God to bless our country – and we should like that very much – the prerequisite condition of our souls before Him must be one of marked and abject humility. But there is no humility in only casting aspersions on our ancestors – whether due to their insufficient Progressivism or insufficient Christianity – but never lauding or appreciating them for anything, nor availing ourselves of what good examples they set for us.

We should heed more the admonition in Jeremiah 29, and not follow so much the examples of Balaam, or even Jonah. Or, what? Do some of our prophets promise blessings irrespective our orientation toward righteousness and wickedness, wisdom and folly, and this for their own dishonest gain? They are false prophets, and part of the judgment we’re under.

Do some of our prophets book passage in the opposite direction when told to preach repentance to Nineveh, then sulk and pout when the city turns from its sin and the subsequent wrath of God?

Here again, we have so much to be thankful to God for. But we also have much to repent of and ask God to forgive us for and deliver us from. But the good news is that we can do all of these things. And then we not only can but certainly should pray for God’s blessing accordingly along these lines, even as we cannot expect the blessings of Heaven on any other terms whatsoever.

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